WORLD -- December 7, 2009 at 4:50 PM ET
Students Carry Out Protests in Iran Despite Arrests
It's late afternoon in Iran and protesters are clashing with security forces in downtown Tehran and on university campuses. Hadi Ghaemi, the director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, who is in contact with people there, says he is hearing the protests number in the hundreds and thousands, depending on the location, and that police are blocking students from leaving the schools. "Most universities are surrounded by security forces," Ghaemi said in a phone interview from New York.
The BBC is reporting that police have fired tear gas at protesters in downtown Tehran, and there have been reports of live rounds being shot. Protesters are chanting, "Death to the dictator" and "Do not be scared-we are all together."
Opposition leaders have been building momentum for today's protests for weeks, while Iranian officials tried to prevent them by arresting hundreds of student leaders in the run-up, according to news accounts.
Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader who came in second to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June's disputed vote, issued a strong statement on one of his Web sites today, condemning the authorities: "You fight people on the streets, but you are constantly losing your dignity in people's minds. Even if you silence all the universities, what are you going to do with the society?"
According to Ghaemi, Mousavi, and another opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, have been blocked from joining the protests and may be under house arrest. Yet, Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, a well-known former university chancellor, who hasn't been seen much since the disputed June 12 elections, was reportedly among the protesters on the campus of Tehran University. There have been no reports that she was detained, but another prominent opposition supporter, Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of a high-ranking cleric and former Iranian president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, was detained at a protest on another college campus.
So far, according to Ghaemi, his group has received the names of about five people who have been arrested, and three more have been injured, mainly from the tear gas security forces fired. But, those numbers were expected to rise.
Foreign journalists have been barred from reporting on the protests, and Web and cell service in Tehran has been slowed. There is some video popping up on YouTube...